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Christopher Webster [Film Festival 10.02.08] movie review horror

Year: 2008
DVD Release date: Unknown
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Writers: Jeff Buhler / Clive Barker (story)
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 7 out of 10

As I walked out of Midnight Meat Train last night it suddenly dawned on me that even though the film was far from being perfect cinema, it somehow came close to being a perfect horror film. See, good horror isn't simple. It's not just about good people having bad things happen to them and horror films shouldn't be just about sitting back and passively watching shocking images. Good horror is about characters getting enticed to explore the darkest recesses of our world and gaining a powerful knowledge about our deeper psyche when they emerge changed on the other side. Very few authors get this like Clive Barker, which is why he's so important to the genre (and why he's so loved around here). Hellraiser in particular comes to mind when I think about what's going on in Midnight Meat Train, though that film attacks the theme from a totally different angle. In a nutshell, that's the crux of Midnight Meat Train. It's about a guy who can't say no to the intoxicating allure of the dark side.

Leon Kauffman is a New York photographer obsessed with capturing the true nature of the city he lives in. His photos are interesting, but nowhere near good enough to show in Susan Hoff's (played by Brooke Shields) swanky upscale gallery. To find something more "real" he begins shooting at night. On a shoot one night he saves a young girl in a subway station from a group of thugs only to read the next day that the girl ended up going missing anyway. Leon becomes obsessed in the case after he discovers that he inadvertently took a picture of someone else in the subway that night. He begins to follow the man in an attempt to piece together the evidence and stumbles upon the grim realization that these disappearances are happening nightly. He also finds that he's loosing bits of himself as he journeys deeper into the heart of darkness.

Midnight Meat Train isn't perfect. It follows a pretty standard mystery plot with very few twists and turns along the way and, in all honesty, it kind of lost my interest about midway through. Things don't always add up in it and it's the kind of film where characters make inexplicable decisions and continually put themselves in harms way. In fact, if it wasn't for the crazy insane ending that I didn't see coming this film would have probably got a 6 out of ten.

However, the third act really saves the film. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised though considering Japanese director Ryuhei Mitamura (Versus, Alive) made it and the third act of Japanese horror flicks are usually the best part. Everything in the film begins to change and morph along with the story. Even the city itself begins to look and feel less like New York and more like a strange other-worldly place, like that rainy city in Seven. I really don't want to give the ending away but what I will say is that it's right up there with the ending of Hellraiser in terms of it's "holy crap, what just happened here?" factor.

Of course Vinnie Jones does a fantastic job playing the "scariest man on earth" role he does so well. He literally says one line in the entire film but his presence is oppressive and everywhere. As odd as it may seem, there are also some great fight scenes in the film that are made even more intense because they take place in the cramped quarters of a subway car.

I think the bottom line on Midnight Meat Train is that it sort of feels small and gives away the fact that it came from a short story. If you don't try to rationalize all the decisions the characters make and just give yourself over to the more literary aspirations of the story though, you'll love it for its purity. I listened to some people as I left the theater and the consensus seemed to be that the film was pretty solid and could have stood up to a wider release. I tend to agree. While it certainly wouldn't have topped anybody's best of the year lists I think it could have become pretty popular through horror fan word of mouth.

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cyberhal (13 years ago) Reply

Okay, I know this is a lame comment, but I saw Vinny Jones in the pub last week. I have to mention it cause he's a hero of mine. He looked well dangerous.


quietearth (13 years ago) Reply

Vinnie Jones rules!


agentorange (13 years ago) Reply

He's a true hard man.

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